WILLIAMSON, W.Va. — Bo Copley was making more than $80,000 per year working as a foreman in the coal industry.
Copley was one of the 10 local people that met with democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton at the Williamson Health and Wellness Center on Monday afternoon.
Copley, a very religious man, who attends the Regional Church of God in Delbarton, read a Bible verse to Clinton. He fought back tears as he gave Clinton an 8 x 10 picture of his three young children telling her that a negative stance against coal hurts Appalachian families like his.
While the group met the democratic front-runner inside, hundreds of fuming pro-Trump supporters and laid-off coal miners could be heard outside as they chanted and booed, despite the steady rainfall.
Copley worked for Coal Mac, a subsidiary of Arch Coal, and is one of thousands of miners that have lost their jobs in the last eight years due to the “war on coal.”
Clinton recently made remarks while on a campaign swing in neighboring Kentucky about putting coal miners out of work.
“The reason you hear those people out there,” the soft-spoken 39 year old Copley said, “is because, when you make comments that you’re going to put a lot of coal miners out of jobs, these are the people you’re affecting. That’s my family.”
“I don’t mind anyone being angry,” Clinton said.
Clinton did offer an apology to Copley and his wife Lauren, who was by his side.
She also said it was a “misstatement” and that afterwards she immediately contacted U.S. Senator Joe Manchin (D-WV) about her remarks.
Clinton stated that she hopes to reinvest in coalfield communities. That her statement “We’re going to put a lot of coal companies and coal miners out of business” – was “taken out of context.”
“I can’t promise miracles,” Clinton said, while national and some state and local media listened only a few feet away. “We are going to do whatever we can to help the people here in West Virginia who deserve the gratitude of our country for everything that you have done over so many decades.”
Clinton, the wife of former president Bill Clinton, has shown support for legislation of the Robert C. Byrd Mine Safety Act. Another bill that she says has her support is one that will secure the pensions and health benefits of thousands of retired miners and their widows.
Manchin, who was drenched by the heavy thunderstorm that hit the area when he arrived, was also booed by the protesters who lined the streets outside.
A heavy contingent of local law enforcement was present including West Virginia State Police, Mingo County Sheriff’s deputies, Williamson City Police and Secret Service to keep the crowd at bay on the narrow Second Avenue in downtown Williamson.
After the roundtable was over, media asked Copley if Clinton would get his vote. He said he was a registered republican, so he can’t vote for her in the primary. But it was unlikely he would vote for her in the November General election either.
Manchin made the argument that the nation cannot produce enough electricity without coal fired power plants. The past few years President Barack Obama and the strict EPA regulations have hurt the coal and those power plants.
Manchin said he supported other forms of energy like solar and wind, but that coal still had a place and is needed in the United States. He said he has discussed this with Clinton and believes she understands.
“There is no easy answer,” Clinton said. “It’s going to take everybody working together, and it does take a president who’s really willing to work with you and be a partner with you.”
(Editor’s Note: The Williamson Daily News will have more stories this week on Clinton’s visit and some of the discussions she had with local individuals in the private, closed-door meeting held in Williamson. The WDN was the only local media that covered the event from inside the venue.)
(Kyle Lovern is the Editor for the Williamson Daily News. He can be contacted at [email protected] or at 304-235-4242, ext. 2277 or on Twitter @KyleLovern.)